Imagine you are a student on a very tight budget traveling through a country in which you have to pay to use the public toilets…sigh! While it no doubt was discomforting to Greg Kotis, who experienced this very inconvenience while traveling in Paris as a student, his Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical in 2002, proved that his inspiration for writing URINETOWN was worth his former hunts for small change. Along with Mark Hollman, Kotis also won the Tony for Best Original Score. This cleverly written and scored musical, now being performed by the Narberth Community Theatre, is just as fresh and fun as it was when it opened on Broadway at Henry Miller’s Theatre in September 2001.
The play, set in the future, satirizes a number of societal imperfections that, in this case, have emerged following years of severe water shortage. The populace, now worn ragged by corporate greed, a repressive legal system, bureaucratic mismanagement, and municipal politics, are now at the mercy of these societal imperfections as they wait in long lines to use the public toilets, to which they are now by law restricted, hoping they have enough money to cover rising prices at their local public amenities. Barbara Burke Sherman plays Ms. Pennywise, the ruthless manager of Public Amenity #9. She is terrific in this pivotal role and sings with Ethel-Merman-gusto one of the show’s opening songs, “A Privilege to Pee”.
In an obvious parody of LES MISÉRABLES, the downtrodden find their champion in a young man of high moral conscience, Bobby Strong, who, as fate would have it only in literature, has fallen in love with Hope Cladwell, daughter of the merciless CEO of Urine Good Company, controller of all public amenities. Justin Damm brings the right amount of energy and supreme confidence to his character and sings several rousing numbers in great voice, not the least of which is the uplifting “Run, Freedom, Run”, while accompanied by the ensemble cast performing as if in a spiritually-charged choir. Brittany Adams is perfectly wonderful as Hope, carrying off her character and songs with great charm and well-delivered enthusiasm. The CEO, Caldwell B. Caldwell, in convincingly portrayed by Steve Arcidiacono, who, while fumbling some lines throughout, manages to still entertain with songs he sings, including the very funny “Don’t Be the Bunny”.
The show opens with the local cop, Officer Lockstock, as the narrator who appears throughout the musical providing humorous insights and updates, and often accompanied by an inquisitive, if not nagging, street ragamuffin, Little Sally. Joe Gribbin was great fun to watch and reminded me a lot of Jeff McCarthy, who played Office Lockstock on Broadway. As Little Sally, Kate Reynolds delighted the opening night audience with her songs and all-around pleasing performance. Other notable performances were by Tom Purnell, as Joseph Strong, Linda Galanti Hunt as Josephine Strong, Steve DiNenno as Senator Fipp, and Jeff Hunsicker as Mr. McQueen.
Director Paul Recupero deserves applause for putting together this fine cast, all of whom were enthusiastic, convincing and fully engaged in making this show come alive in a most entertaining fashion. Kim Albright’s choreography was spotless, thanks surely to a great marriage between hers and her cast’s obvious passion for getting each dance movement excitingly right and in perfect timing with the music.
While the music, provided by a small live orchestra often left much to be desired, the only truly overwhelming problem with this otherwise well-directed, choreographed and acted musical was the appalling sound system. All principal actor/singers were miked, but for some reason (perhaps someone will comment), there were frequent over-modulations of the sound system. During intermission, I heard audience members complaining that while they were enjoying the performances, they were not able to understand large portions of songs and dialogue. From my seat in the middle of the auditorium, I noticed that by intermission, my ears were beginning to hurt. This problem with the show’s sound is extremely unfortunate given that I really enjoyed the rousing performances of this very talented cast who together make this production of URINETOWN well worth seeing.
URINETOWN, THE MUSICAL
Music and Lyrics by Mark Hollman
Book and Lyrics by Greg Kotis
Directed by Paul Recupero
February 15 – March 2, 2013
Narberth Community Theatre
playing at Stage One
101 Plush Mill Road